Meet Stuart & Lau - The Men behind Classic, Fabric Briefcases for the Modern Man in Motion.
Tell us about each other and your team
Our story began 8 years ago in Shanghai, where we were both working from 2006 to 2011. We met through interconnected circles of friends and quickly bonded over many conversations around men’s style, product design, and ongoing fashion trends at the time. Since then, we moved to opposite sides of the globe – Jimmy to New York, and Matt to Hong Kong – but somehow managed to start a business in the process that calls home to both cities and leverages the resources, energy, talents that both have to offer. As a partnership, we follow the classic pattern of one member focusing on the creative elements, while the other handles the business-oriented tasks. In our case, Jimmy – who studied at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology – leads the design; while Matt – who has an MBA from Columbia Business School and was with Ralph Lauren in Hong Kong prior to co-founding Stuart & Lau – looks after the day-to-day running of the business.
How was the idea of Stuart & Lau born?
We were both living mobile lifestyles in large, hectic cities and at one time or another had carried all forms of bags and briefcases to get us from A to B. Yet, we were perpetually unsatisfied. It proved impossible to find that lightweight, weatherproof, versatile briefcase that could transcend location and style with simple, classic lines and small touches of individuality – an everyday carry, regardless of weather, occasion, or contents. Both being enthusiasts for product design and men’s style (as well as admitted man-bag aficionados) we had that prototypical “let’s do this” moment over coffee 16 months ago in New York and have never looked back since.
WHAT IS THE BRAND'S DESIGN PHILOSOPHY?
We talk internally a lot about the idea of this “Man in Motion”, which is the best way to express our approach to design. Every feature, every stitch in our collection originates first from this idea of a man moving through the city, navigating his day. And then we ask: what can we do to make that journey more efficient, simpler and smoother. We brought our own experiences living in New York and Hong Kong – drastically different, though remarkably similar cities – to bear on this process and hopefully built a collection of products that deliver on this promise, that address the real experiences of today’s urban lifestyle.
Who is the Stuart & Lau Customer?
Still early days of course, but we’ve seen a very positive response from the professional community: bankers, lawyers, and consultants. They travel frequently – both between cities, but also within their day – and they typically carry items that best suit a briefcase. Within this group, our customer tends to be someone who has tried other brands before and, likes we were, is looking to make a change, just as we did.
How did you start putting yourself out there?
In the onset, we reached out to our immediate network, launching the first collection exclusively through pre-orders. This proved successful, and we are now seeing referrals and re-orders, which are the two highest forms of approval. By virtue of having lived in a lot of different cities – New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Madrid, Tokyo – over the years, we are fortunate enough to have networks in those places that have advocated on our behalf and help expand our reach.
What is the next step?
We have some very exciting partnerships and collaborations with other brands in the pipeline that will be transpiring in the later part of the year. We are currently finalizing three new styles – a brief, a tote, and a day bag – that will be released early next year. But, first and foremost, the immediate focus for us is the process of building awareness and developing a community of supporters who understand and endorse what we’re trying to do. To that end, we’ll be both holding events and engaging with ambassadors to carrying and advocate for the brand.
Also, behind the scenes we continue to focus on our vendor and supplier relationships to ensure that the components, craftsmanship, and service added to each point of the value chain all meet our expectations for quality and customer experience.
Can you tell us something about your products that your consumers necessarily wouldn't know?
We’ve included an attachable pen connected to the luggage tag on both our Cary briefcase and Monaco Weekender, which can be removed from the silver stylus by un-twisting. Although, this may have been hidden a bit too well because we’ve had customers confused as to what it is. As frequent travelers, we all-too-often encountered the awkwardness of fumbling for our pens when passing through customs & immigrations. And if your ink ever runs out, we’re happy to send you a new cartridge!
How would you describe an average working day at Stuart & Lau?
Variety. Every day is completely different, and that’s what makes this fun. Whether it’s meeting with fabric suppliers, sketching new designs, boxing up orders, or laying out marketing plans – the diversity of tasks at this stage in our development is endless and exhilarating. We are also in a unique position with both of us being on opposite ends of the globe. Our mornings and evenings are quite active as we communicate back and forth either internally between ourselves, or with partners in New York and Hong Kong. It gives the sense of a 24-hour work cycle, which can be tiring, but it also allows us to move faster and carry work across time zones.
Tell us your favorite media publications.
Monocle Magazine, The Rake, The Financial Times, Wallpaper – and of course, That’s It Magazine!
IS THERE WAS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE TO THE YOUNG CREATIVE DESIGNERS.WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
As a company that designs and creates a physical product, we focus a lot of our energy on product development. From concept drawings to the moment a briefcase reaches the customer – it’s a long (exhilarating!) journey with many twists, turns, and lessons to be learned. Foremost among these is that the closer you can partner with the source of production and engage with this process, the better off you’ll be. Though it’s tempting to work through sourcing agents and outsource the often daunting task of finding and managing production, we find that the inevitable misalignment of incentives and layers of communication slow down or confuse the process of creating that product you originally envisioned. Furthermore, by adding a layer between yourself and production, you forego many opportunities to improve upon the product – purely because they can only be realized firsthand on the factory floor, after seeing how the product is constructed. Invest the time to find and go directly to the production partner who is right for you, and be intimately involved with the crafting of your product. It is an upfront investment of time and resources, but it will pay off in the long run.
What would be your favorite sentence that you would END with; "And...That´s it!" be ?
It’s been stated before, but it never fails to inspire: do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life again,and…that’s it!Visit their website here